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POEMS

OF

JOSEPH ADDISON.

TO MR. DRYDEN.

How long, great poet! shall thy sacred lays
Provoke our wonder, and transcend our praise?
Can neither injuries of time or age
Damp thy poetic heat, and quench thy rage?
Not so thy Ovid in his exile wrote, [thought;
Grief chill'd his breast, and check'd his rising
Pensive and sad, his drooping Muse betrays
The Roman genius in its last decays.

Prevailing warmth has still thy mind possessid,
And second youth is kindled in thy breast;
Thou makest the beauties of the Romans known,
And England boasts of riches not her own;
Thy lines have heighten'd Virgil's majesty,
And Horace wonders at himself in thee :
Thou teachest Persius to inform our isle
In smoother numbers and a clearer style;
And Juvenal, instructed in thy page,
Edges his satire and improves his rage.

Thy copy casts a fairer light on all,
And still outshines the bright original.

Now Ovid boasts the' advantage of thy song,
And tells his story in the British tongue;
Thy charming verse, and fair translations, show
How thy own laurel first began to grow;
How wild Lycaon, changed by angry gods,
And frighted at himself, ran howling through the

woods. 0! may’st thou still the noble task prolong, Nor age nor sickness interrupt thy song ! Then may we, wondering, read how human limbs Have water'd kingdoms and dissolved in streams; Of those rich fruits that on the fertile mould Turn'd yellow by degrees, and ripen'd into gold, How some in feathers, or a ragged hide, Have lived a second life, and different natures tried. Then will thy Ovid, thus transform’d, reveal A nobler change than he himself can tell. Magd. College, Oxon.

June 2, 1693.

AN ACCOUNT OF THE GREATEST

ENGLISH POETS.

TO MR. HENRY SACHEVERELL'.

April 3, 1694. SINCE, dearest Harry! you will needs request A short account of all the Muse possess'd, That, down from Chaucer's days to Dryden's times, Have spent their noble rage in British rhymes,

1 Not the notorious Dr. Sacheverell, as has been supposed; but a gentleman who died young.

Without more preface, writ in formal length,
To speak the undertaker's want of strength,
I'll try to make their several beauties known,
And show their verses' worth, though not my own,

Long had our dull forefathers slept supine,
Nor felt the raptures of the tuneful Nine,
Till Chaucer first, a merry bard, arose,
And many a story told in rhyme and prose;
But
age

has rusted what the poet writ,
Worn out his language, and obscured his wit;
In vain he jests in his unpolish'd strain,
And tries to make his readers laugh in vain.

Old Spenser next, warm'd with poetic rage, In ancient tales amused a barbarous age; An age that, yet uncultivate and rude, Where'er the poet's fancy led, pursued Through pathless fields and unfrequented floods, To dens of dragons and enchanted woods. But now the mystic tale that pleased of yore Can charm an understanding age no more; The long-spun allegories fulsome grow, While the dull moral lies too plain below. We view, well-pleased, at distance all the sights Of arms and palfries, battles, fields, and fights, And damsels in distress, and courteous knights ; But when we look too near the shades decay, And all the pleasing landscape fades away.

Great Cowley then (a mighty genius!) wrote, O'er-run with wit, and lavish of his thought: His turns too closely on the reader press; He more had pleased us had he pleased us less : One glittering thought no sooner strikes our eyes With silent wonder, but new wonders rise; As in the Milky-way a shining white O’erflows the heavens with one continued light,

That not a single star can show his rays,
Whilst jointly all promote the common blaze.
Pardon, great poet! that I dare to name
The’unnumber'd beauties of thy verse with blame;
Thy fault is only wit in its excess ;
But wit like thine in any shape will please.
What Muse but thine can equal hints inspire,
And fit the deep-mouth'd Pindar to thy lyre?
Pindar! whom others, in a labour'd strain,
And forced expression, imitate in vain ?
Well pleased in thee he soars with new delight,
And plays in more unbounded verse, and takes a
nobler flight.

[lays Bless'd man! whose spotless life and charming Employ'd the tuneful prelate in thy praise ; Bless'd man! who now shall be for ever known In Sprat's successful labours and thy own.

But Milton next, with high and haughty stalks, Unfetter'd in majestic numbers, walks: No vulgar hero can his Muse engage, Nor earth's wide scene confine his hallow'd rage, See! see! he upward springs, and, towering high, Spurns the dull province of mortality; Shakes Heaven's eternal throne with dire alarms, And sets the Almighty thunderer in arms ! Whate’er his pen describes, I more than see, Whilst every verse, array'd in majesty, Bold and sublime, my whole attention draws, And seems above the critic's nicer laws. How are you struck with terror and delight, When angel with archangel copes in fight! When great Messiah's outspread banner shines, How does the chariot rattle in his lines ! What sound of brazen wheels, what thunder, scare And stun the reader with the din of war!

With fear my spirits and my blood retire,
To see the seraphs sunk in clouds of fire;
But when, with eager steps, from hence I rise,
And view the first gay scenes of Paradise,
What tongue, what words of rapture can express
A vision so profuse of pleasantness!
Oh! had the poet ne'er profaned his pen,
To varnish o'er the guilt of faithless men,
His other works might have deserved applause;
But now the language can't support the cause;
While the clean current, though serene and bright,
Betrays a bottom odious to the sight.

But now, my Muse, a softer strain rehearse,
Turn
every

line with art, and smooth thy verse; The courtly Waller next commands thy lays: Muse! tune thy verse with art to Waller's praise. While tender airs and lovely dames inspire Soft melting thoughts, and propagate desi So long shall Waller's strains our passion move, And Sacharissa's beauty kindle love. Thy verse, harmonious bard! and flattering song, Can make the vanquish'd great, the coward strong; Thy verse can show even Cromwell's innocence, And compliment the storm that bore him hence! Oh, had thy Muse not come an age too soon, But seen great Nassau on the British throne, How had his triumphs glitter'd in thy page, And warm’d thee to a more exalted rage! What scenes of death and horror had we view'd, And how had Boyne's wide current reek’din blood! Or if Maria's 2 charms thou wouldst rehearse In smoother numbers and a softer verse,

Queen Mary.

2

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